LIVING COLOUR LIVE AT THE HIGHLINE BALLROOM: THERE’S A METHOD TO THE MADNESS
Photo by Greg Aiello
On Friday night, Vince and I saw Living Colour live for what I think must have been the seventh or maybe eighth time. And it’s a testament to the abilities of this band that, in a day and age when so many groups are seemingly just going through the motions, we’ve really never seen the same Living Colour show twice. These dudes just seem to come from another time and place – an era when a live performance wasn’t about doing a note-for-note recreation of your albums so much as it was about creating a unique experience for the audience. In that regard, Living Colour still delivers in spades.
The group stuck primarily to material from the recent release, The Chair in the Doorway – in fact, they played almost the entire album, save for maybe a song or two (The emotional “That’s What You Taught Me” was the most notable omission, although given that the heavy subject matter – the passing of a loved one – would have been in direct opposition with the lighter mood of the evening, it’s not surprising that it got left out.). And while a set drenched in new material is usually a strike against a band – particularly a veteran band like this one – you can’t really fault Living Colour for their decision. For one thing, they’ve been around for more than two decades and are probably overjoyed to be able to play something they haven’t played a billion times before, and for another thing, The Chair in the Doorway rocks and the songs absolutely slay live, so why not play ’em? “DecaDance,” “Hard Times,” “Bless Those,” the comical “Asshole” and the touching “Behind the Sun” – they all sounded great, and a month or two out on the road has really tightened the band’s performances of these songs since we last saw them played live.
Of course, the band did find time in their two-plus hour set to fit in a healthy dose of the old classics – “Middle Man,” “Open Letter to a Landlord,” “Time’s Up,” “Love Rears Its Ugly Head,” “Bi,” “Go Away,” and, of course, “Type” and “Cult of Personality” all found their way into the set. These songs really got the crowd riled up, natch, but they also seemed like the numbers where the band felt most comfortable straying from the path and allowing themselves to jam a little. On “Elvis is Dead,” not only did the band allow their playful interpersonal relationships to shine – guitarist Vernon Reid screamed “I SAW HIM! I SAW HIM!” while doing what I guess would best be described as “The Crackhead Shuffle,” while vocalist Corey Glover accused him of indeed being a crackhead – but they brought out a saxophonist (whose name I unfortunately did not catch) and even segued into The King’s “Hound Dog” for a little bit.
And with musicians this good, you want them to go a little nuts. Everyone got their moment in the sun – of course Reid does a lot of soloing, but drummer Will Calhoun got an extended drum solo, and bassist Doug Wimbish did one of the most bad-ass bass solos I’ve ever heard, complete with a leap into the crowd down below. But I have to give special props to Glover – not only is he a charismatic front man, but somehow his voice still sounds the same, if not better, as it did when Vivid came out twenty one years ago. Whatever he’s been doing to keep his pipes in shape, it’s working, and other singers should take a tip or two from the guy.
So, yeah. The short version: Vince and I will happily go see Living Colour a ninth, tenth, and eleventh time. Definitely do not miss them when they play your town.